8-9 months: baby development

8-9 months: baby development

Baby development at 8-9 months: what's happening

Babbling, clapping hands, crawling, pulling up to stand - there's a lot happening for your baby.

At this age, your baby is having a growth spurt in his brain. This improves his memory and you might notice him forming stronger attachments to his favourite people, toys and books.

Your baby might even prefer a particular person - this could be you, your partner, or another close family member or carer. Separation anxiety and anxiety around strangers is pretty common at this age. It might help to know that these are normal parts of child development.

You'll start to get an idea of what your child might be like in the future, as she starts showing you her personality. Her emotions are maturing too - she can express fear and also read and respond to your facial expressions.

Your baby is starting to link words with their meanings and understand your body language - for example, if you point at something, he might look towards it. He'll still be babbling, and might say 'mama' or 'dada' without knowing what these words mean.

At this age your baby might also:

  • copy sounds
  • make noises to get your attention
  • explore everything around her - for example, she might ring bells, bang blocks and find hidden objects
  • stop what she's doing when she hears you say 'no'
  • practise her eating skills by holding, biting and chewing food
  • start feeding herself with her fingers.
You'll be surprised at how far your baby can move, so always watch your baby and never leave him unattended on a change table, sofa or bed. It doesn't take long for baby to unexpectedly move into or reach for something that puts him in danger.

Helping baby development at 8-9 months

Here are a few simple things you can do to help your baby's development at this age:

  • Talk to your baby: your baby is interested in conversation, so talking about everyday things like what you're doing will help her understand what words mean. The more talk, the better!
  • Listen and respond to your baby's babbling: this will build his language, communication and literacy skills, and make him feel 'heard', loved and valued. It's important to respond by talking or making sounds in your own warm and loving way. Your baby will enjoy hearing your voice go up and down and love watching your facial expressions as you talk to him.
  • Play together: sing songs, play peekaboo, ring bells, hide toys and make funny sounds or animal noises together. At this age, your baby especially enjoys playing with you and copying what you do. Playing together also helps her feel loved and secure.
  • Read together: reading, talking about the pictures in books and telling stories develop your baby's imagination. These activities also help him to understand language and learn to read as he gets older.
  • Encourage moving: moving and exploring help your baby build muscle strength for more complex movements like pulling to stand and walking. If your baby is crawling, you can try getting down on the floor and crawling around with her, or playing a game of chasey.
  • Make your home safe so your baby can move about without getting hurt.

Sometimes your baby won't want to do some of these things - for example, he might be too tired or hungry. He'll use special baby cues to let you know when he's had enough and what he needs.

Parenting a nine-month-old

As a parent, you're always learning. Every parent makes mistakes and learns through experience. It's OK to feel confident about what you know. And it's also OK to admit you don't know something and ask questions or get help.

With all the focus on looking after a baby, you might forget or run out of time to look after yourself. But looking after yourself physically and mentally will help you with the understanding, patience, imagination and energy you need to be a parent.

Sometimes you might feel frustrated or upset. But if you feel overwhelmed, put your baby in a safe place like a cot, or ask someone else to hold her for a while. It's OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. You could also try going to another room to breathe deeply or calling a family member or friend to talk things through.

Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage.

It's OK to ask for help. If you're feeling overwhelmed, call your local Parentline. You might also like to try our ideas for dealing with anger, anxiety and stress.

When to be concerned about baby development

See your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your nine-month-old is having any of the following issues.

Seeing, hearing and communicating
Your child:

  • isn't making eye contact with you, isn't following moving objects with his eyes or has an eye that is turned in or out most of the time
  • isn't babbling
  • isn't turning his head towards sounds or voices.

Your child doesn't show whether she's happy or sad or shows little or no affection for carers - for example, she doesn't smile at you.

Your child:

  • isn't rolling
  • can't sit up on his own
  • uses one hand a lot more than the other.

You should also see a health professional if you notice that your baby has lost skills that she had before.

You should also see your child and family health nurse or GP if you or your partner experiences the signs of postnatal depression in women or postnatal depression in men. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.

Children grow and develop at different speeds. If you're worried about whether your child's development is 'normal', it might help to know that 'normal' varies a lot. But if you still feel that something isn't quite right, see your child and family health nurse or GP.